Casoli...AND Jamie Witham both retire!
Paolo Casoli has spent the winter months convalescing from a cranial trauma he sustained in a crash while testing last November. This week a full neurological examination by Professor Carlo Bollini at the Bellaria Hospital in Bologna has shown the 37 year-old Italian is completely over the trauma but retains some mild tissue damage (anencephaly) which, in the case of another crash, could lead to more serious complications. Casoli, who in all other respects can lead a normal healthy life, has chosen to follow the advice of his doctors and retire from racing.
"The doctors have been very honest, they told me that if I crashed again I could have big problems and ruin my future; this is too much of a risk that I don't feel like taking" explained Casoli. "I am very sad to leave in this way after 20 years of racing at the highest level. In 2003 I would have had a very fast Yamaha, new tyres and the ambition to win the Supersport World Championship. I couldn't wait to face this challenge. But I have
to think about my family too, they are my main reason for life. I have a son, a wife and wonderful parents who would have worried too much knowing the risks I was taking. So I prefer to stop."
By an unlucky twist of fate, Paolo's team-mate Jamie Whitham, another 20-year veteran of racing, has also seen his career cut short by health concerns: this time glaucoma of the left eye. At the end of last season he first encountered slight vision difficulties and sought medical treatment, though the full impact of the problem has only now become evident. Jamie maintains near normal vision for daily activities but the impairment
becomes more acute during the stresses of top-level competitive racing and this has led to his decision to retire. Doctors have suggested that the cause of the problem may be the chemotherapy treatment that Whitham received in 1995 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease - a form of lymphatic cancer, from which he made a full recovery.
"I was aware of this problem at the end of last season and discussed it with the team," said Whitham. "I didn't notice it again during the first two winter tests when we were in the wet and riding quite slow, but it became a problem while I was testing at full speed in the dry last weekend. I just can't give that last 10% with any confidence - and confidence is what racing is all about. I wouldn't want to put myself or anyone else in danger, plus the guys at Belgarda are more like a family than a team and they deserve to have a rider who is 100% fit. I know the bike is going to be good - good enough to win the championship - so it's important that they have the best possible rider. It's been a really hard decision to make - I've been racing all my life and all my friends are in racing. I know I've got be philosophical but I'm really going to miss it."
Team Yamaha Belgarda have signed 33 year old MotoGP star Jurgen van den Goorbergh to spearhead their 2003 Supersport World Championship, though ex-125 GP rider Simone Sanna is also testing for a ride.